Our friend and networking guru Lauren Fritsch has been helping us wrap our heads around networking, that frequently scary and usually overwhelming stepping stone we all face on the way to employment.
Lauren grew up on a military base, and in her professional life as a rock-star business consultant, she helps everyone from small-town yoga startups to world leaders tackle those business skills that are sometimes hard to master… like networking.
When you are a military spouse trying to network in your field, Lauren knows the challenge is just that much harder.
Still, mastering networking wherever you are comes down to five simple steps. First, you start small, working by word of mouth from the people you already know.
This is the best place to begin, because even if you know you don’t know anyone where you’re headed, your last boss, old teacher, or that quiet coworker might have just the contact for you. Getting in touch and asking them to leverage their network on your behalf gives you access to a potential goldmine of possibilities and it’s easier than you think.
Where do you go after that? The next step to networking for military spouses is to take your 21st century self online.
Point and Click
“For military spouses, getting off base and getting outside the bubble is going to be really vital for networking,” says Lauren. But getting off base and outside the bubble when you’re stuck in a military town can be difficult.
“The internet is fabulous as a tool,” says Lauren, and it’s also a great way to connect you with the non-military world around you.
Start by combing Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for professionals in your field that live near you or companies where you’d like to work. For more tips on how that kind of search is done, please click here.
Because most military bases aren’t smack in the middle of corporate hubs, you might have to expand your “region” to include wherever the nearest city is, but don’t be afraid to do that. You can’t help where you live, and companies understand that.
More than that, companies will appreciate your initiative to make a home for yourself in a new region. That’s something you know how to do already, and it’s more than impressive in the business world.
Once you start finding people you’d like to connect with or companies where you’d like to work, you need to get in touch. Be ready to contact with those people you find online. (Otherwise it’s just stalking!)
Networking is all about making yourself known. When you feel like you’re digitally knocking on the door of a complete stranger, you don’t have to be nervous. Be confident. You’re doing what all successful professionals have had to do at one time or another, and just by doing it, you’re already a step ahead.
Sarah, a 26-year-old Marine Corps spouse couldn’t agree more. Sarah is bright, talented, full of potential, and was – until very recently – unemployed. She moved to California with her now-husband right after college.
The only professional experience Sarah had was working in the residential life office of her dormitory. It was a great job, but it had no connection to public relations, the field she spent the last four years preparing to join. When they arrived in San Diego, Sarah immediately took to the Internet.
“I looked up all the firms I thought might hire me,” she said. “Or at least the ones I thought should, and I started making a list. Once I had a list of potential places I thought I could work, I researched their employees until I found someone I had a connection with: like, we’re both from Pittsburgh or have pugs or something.”
Sarah doggedly hounded the people she found online or months. “It took a really long time! But then one day, I emailed a woman who mentioned in her bio that she loved dogs, and I told her all about the dogs we brought into the dorm during finals time to help people calm down. She was so excited, she agreed to set up a time to meet with me.”
Two weeks later, Sarah met her at her firm. While they weren’t hiring, Sarah’s new friend knew someone who was, and now Sarah is learning the ropes on the ground in an active and vibrant public relations office.
Follow Sarah’s lead. Start combing the Internet for companies where you think you might be happy. What do you have in common with these companies? Can you find a person who works there with whom you might have a personal connection?
Keep searching until you do. And when you do, be ready to get in touch. You don’t have be nervous – we have all the resources you need to get you started with an email or a cold call. But you have to take the first step and put yourself out there, and when you’re doing that from a base, the Internet can be a great place to start.
For the rest of our five steps to networking for military spouses, be sure to check out the rest of our networking resources and how-to’s, and take the time to visit Lauren’s website for more.